Project Practitioners > 10 Traits of Successful Project Managers

10 Traits of Successful Project Managers

By Chris Cook, PMP

READ TIME: 5 minutes

 

I try to avoid listicles, but these characteristics really stood out to me as I was reading Grant Cardone’s ‘The 10x Rule.’ His focus is sales, but the traits apply to project managers.

No story or lead in to set this one up. Here are the ten traits of successful project managers:

 

  • Believe that ‘I will figure it out’ – an individual looking to be responsible and solve a problem

One characteristic I always admired about an old boss was no matter what the problem was, no matter time of day it was, and no matter who was asking, his response to a problem was ‘we always do.’

While he did not have the solution readily available, he knew as time went on, he would develop a strategy to accomplish the task. He knew there was a team of talented individuals surrounding him, and he could rely on them for help.

This attitude led to one of the most profitable divisions in the company.

 

  • Seek to solve problems – one of the fastest and best ways to separate yourself from the masses is to establish yourself as someone who makes situations better, not worse

When times are good, it’s the perfect opportunity to start seeking. There are no oncoming issues you need to steer clear of or solve. No pressure or stress is surrounding an immediate response. You have time to sit back and observe.

Look for problems. A good way to do so is trying to kill the project. What issues or problems could arise that would halt production? Which team members are lagging causing delays up the road? Once you have some answers, start to develop responses so if, and when, these problems come up, you already have the solutions.

 

  • Create wealth – move your attention from conserving money to creating wealth, and you’ll be thinking as successful people do

Margins can be tight causing project managers to look at savings constantly. What corners can be cut within the rules and specifications? Can you get away with three crew members instead of four? Does the project require five dump trucks or are three enough?

While saving money is just as good as earning, earning more money is also a possibility. Instead of trying to slice the pie thinner and thinner, try baking another pie.

 

  • Habitually commit – it is vital that you quit testing the water’s temperature and simply jump in

This avoidance of analysis paralysis is important. The only way you will truly know is actually to do. All of the data in the world will not compare to the experience itself.

There are ways to jump in without committing all of your resources and going broke. Proof of concept should be emphasized. A new website costs thousands of dollars so why not start out getting some traction on free services first. You can try social media, message boards, and so on to test interest. Maybe create a landing page to collect emails. Once you have generated the interest, then dive into a different pool of commitment.

 

  • Go all the way – ‘half measures achieved us nothing’

Once you have taken the dive, commit fully to the idea. Again, these commitments occur in steps. Committing fully does not mean millions of dollars in advertising. It means the avenue you picked needs to be the avenue.

If you decide service work is better than remodel, fully commit to service. Dabbling in both could mean you have neither. Like a football team that does not commit to a quarterback, the team has no idea who to support or who to listen to because the other guy might be playing.

 

  • Break traditional ties – they break that which already works in order to get to a better place, do not be a prisoner of the thinking agreed upon by others

Challenge the status quo, often. Question why you do something. Robots are already doing some of the tasks humans used to do. The project management profession does not need robots in the human form.

Robots know the WHAT and HOW of an organization. However, figuring out the WHY is specific to human capability. The WHY will set you apart from other organizations.

 

  • Be interested in results – until you become completely, unreasonably fixated with only getting results, you will fall short of achieving what you desire. Quit patting yourself on the back for trying, and save your rewards and accolades for actual accomplishment. Drive yourself so that no one else has to. Be hard on yourself and never let yourself off the hook until you get results

I stress trusting the process and focusing less on results. However, results are important. If you are married to a broken process, the results you desperately crave will never be realized.

Become undeniable. No one can question the undeniable. If your team is constantly outproducing others, you possess something no one else does. It could be your ability to inspire or outwork everyone. Whatever the separation is, your results make you undeniable.

 

  • Create your own reality – they aren’t interested in what other people deem possible or impossible; they only care about producing the things they dream are possible

The best way to know the future is to create it. A great way to know someone is not right to join your team is he or she constantly deems things impossible. Is there really no way of accomplishing this task, or is it something so difficult you cannot see a solution or do not want to put the necessary work in to solve it?

Your goal should be breakthrough creation. Rather than steady progress or status quo, you want to create those ideas that spike growth.

 

  • Be uncomfortable – moving to a new city, cold calling a client, meeting new people, doing a new presentation or venturing into new sectors

There is a fine line to being uncomfortable. If you are over challenged, stress and anxiety cause you to shut down. If you are under challenged, boredom takes over. You must find the line between the two for a happy place of discomfort.

This sweet spot varies for each individual, but consistency and volume are important. Being uncomfortable for short bursts is not as effective as being consistently uncomfortable. Focus on improving every day steadily, not intensively.

 

  • ‘Reach up’ in relationships – having people around them who are smarter, brighter, and more creative, connected to their willingness to change, challenge tradition, grow, and do what others can't

If you are the smartest person in the room, you are in the wrong room. You should strive to learn from each and every person around you. While you may have a vast knowledge base, some people have a deep understanding of niche ideas.

Pick their brains to dive deeper into something you have surface level knowledge of. Use subject matter experts as resources for not only solving intricate problems but also adding to your knowledge base.

 

Takeaways

Use these ten traits as a guide on your path to mastery. Like Pokemon, try to collect them all. The compounding effects of seeking problems while challenging the status quo and not accepting something being impossible puts you ahead of the game.

Your ideas become next level organically with that thought process. The question of why starts to get answered more and more. You build trust and buy-in within your team. They become inspired by you, and in turn, start to inspire others.

This cycle becomes addictive and multiplicative. Before you know it, you have an organization thinking next level. No more manipulating team members to get things done. They are inspired to get things done and want to perform well.



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